The average New Year’s Party last night would have contained plenty of celebration, fireworks and the occasional mixed emotion, maybe even some sadness. All of these were replicated on New Year’s Day at Vicarage Road as Charlton fans celebrated an explosive 4-3 victory over Watford when at times it looked as if the result was slipping away from them. Both sides were ahead on two separate occasions, and with such an open and end to end game, the final score could have easily resembled that of a rugby result. With disallowed goals for both sides, a penalty for Watford and another incompetent refereeing performance form Mr Trevor Kettle, the game had everything.
Daniel Pudli reacted quickest to a Ben Hamer save to put Watford ahead just after 10 minutes, and the home side dominated until Charlton scored two goals 10 minutes before the break. First Tommie Hoban turned the ball into his own net from a flicked on corner, then fantastic build up play from Cedric Evina and Bradley Pritchard culminated in Yann Kermorgant heading Charlton in front. With the Addicks in control of the opening stages of the second half, but failing to finish their chances, the Hornets took advantage and won a penalty for Dorian Dervite’s foul on Fernando Forestieri. Abdi converted the spot kick, but Charlton continued to press, only for Alexandro Geijo to put Watford back in front just before the 70th minute. Charlton heads could have so easily dropped, but instead they went back up the other end and fine work from Ricardo Fuller saw the ball turned in via a deflection, possibly off a Watford player, but Kermorgant claimed it. The winner came 12 minutes from time, a glorious header by Jonnie Jackson from a Dale Stephens corner. Watford distraught, Charlton delirious.
Charlton’s only changes from the encouraging display against Derby were enforced. Following his red card, Michael Morrison was suspended and Dervite stepped in at centre back. The Frenchman had performed well when ever called upon this season, especially at Millwall, where he and Leon Cort played a huge hand in Charlton successfully coming away from the Den with a point. Danny Haynes was also forced to sit this one out following a hamstring injury suffered at Derby. Despite the impact Bradley Wright-Phillips had when he replaced Haynes on Tuesday, Ricardo Fuller started.
For the away side, loan signings from near and far dominated the makeup of their starting XI. Starts for Nueton, Abdi, Geigo, Marco Cassetti, Joel Ekstrand and Forestieri, all on loan from Udinese, along with Pudil (Granada) and Nathaniel Chalobah (Chelsea) meant that 8/11 of the weren’t owned by Watford. Two exciting young talents in Sean Murray and Hoban started alongside the loans, with former Arsenal goalkeeper Manuel Almunia the captain for the Hornets.
The game took just five minutes to get going, with a clever throw in from Chris Solly running nicely into the path of Kermorgant, who rushed his opportunity and fired well wide. Down the other end, a Watford break saw a Cassetti cross into the box just evade the head of Abdi, whilst Charlton created another opening as Watford failed to clear a corner efficiently and Kermorgant again wasted an opportunity from inside the box after being teed up by Fuller. But Watford’s first real threat on the Charlton goal saw them take the lead. Another break from Watford saw Chalobah play in Geijo, whose shot was tipped away by Hamer straight into the path of Pudil, who finished well into the bottom corner of the goal. It looked like being another case of the Addicks being punished for failing to take their chances, but there was still 80 minutes to turn this one around.
The goal kicked Watford into life as they began to dominate possession in midfield and become more threatening from their pacey breakaways. Another break and another ball over the top from Chalobah looked to have set Forestieri in on goal, but the diminutive Argentinian, who had been sent off at the Valley earlier on in the season, was up to his old tricks again, attempting to fool the referees by palming the ball around Hamer. Thankfully for Charlton, the referee acknowledged the offence and the yellow card was duly shown. Despite his antics, Forestieri was causing problems for the Charlton defence with his pace, but Watford were failing to create any real opportunities. The only one of note came from Murray from 25 yards, but it was comfortably held by Hamer.
Charlton fans thought their side had drawn level on the half hour mark. A long ball was flicked by Kermorgant into the bath of Jackson, who looked to have controlled well and smashed the ball home right into the top corner of the Watford net. However, much to the away fan’s bewilderment, referee Kettle disallowed the goal and booked Jackson for an apparent hand ball in the build. Thankfully for all connected with Charlton, it took just a few more minutes before they were level. A corner from Jackson was flicked on dangerously by Pritchard, falling into the patch of Hoban and leaving him under pressure to clear. He could only direct the ball into his own goal and the away side, although in unspectacular fashion, had the goal their chances had warranted. The tides had turned and Charlton were now well in control of the game. A wonderful flick on from Yann fell into the path of Fuller, but he could only poke the ball wide, but a second was just around the corner.
Collecting the ball in his own half, Cedric Evina showed great pace and skill to beat two men, before putting the ball into the path of Pritchard just inside the box. His cross into the goal mouth was a dream for Kermorgant, who jumped highest and headed home Charlton’s second. A fantastic turn around and the 1500 strong away following sung their hearts out in appreciation. Just before half time, Fuller had one last chance for the Addicks; beating his men out wide, cutting into the box but firing his shot into the side netting.
Charlton started the strongest in the second half, but only had a tame header from Kermorgant that was comfortably saved to show for their efforts. Watford, however, were starting to get back into the game, and so easily could have pulled it back level with 50 minutes on the clock. A one-two from Forestieri and Geigo saw the Argentinian get through one on one with Hamer, but Charlton’s number one made himself big and saved well. With Pritchard mishitting from a decent position and chances going to waste, Charlton weren’t to be so lucky the next time Forestieri was through on goal. His pace did for Dervite and a clumsy challenge sent Forestieri tumbling, leaving Kettle with no choice but to point to the spot. A third penalty conceded by the Addicks in as many games was made doubly frustrating when Abdi converted and drew the scores level.
But Charlton responded well, and so easily could have been back ahead in the next attack. Kermorgant again involved as he and Pritchard combined to put Jackson through for the simplest of finishes. Somehow, Charlton’s captain fired the ball straight at the keeper and Almunia collected well. This was a chance that really needed to be taken with the pressure Watford were applying on the Charlton goal, with Hamer forced into a couple of fantastic tipped saves over the bar. Despite the good from Watford, the bad and the ugly were also starting to be shown in force, with several players over emphasising falls and showing a lack of sporting behaviour. A similar situation had occurred at the Valley earlier on in the season, and it was no surprise to see it happening again.
Unfortunately for Charlton, the good of Watford resulted in them pulling ahead again with just over 20 minutes left. A long ball was flicked on by Forestieri, out doing Dervite, allowing Geigo a free run on goal and an easy finish past Hamer. The goal was absolutely gutting for the away side, who really didn’t deserve to be behind. But showing the fight every Charlton knows the side has, the Addicks quickly grabbed an equalizer. Ricardo Fuller ran rings round his men on the right hand wing before drilling the ball across goal into a melee of players with Kermorgant claiming the final touch as it sneaked into the net. Charlton wanted this and straight away got back on top despite a small scare when Forestieri finished but was deemed offside. Kermorgant headed over from a fantastic Pritchard cross, and Pritchard himself fired wide. The away fans were willing the ball into the net, and a corner from Stephens in the 78th minute was powerfully met by the head of Jackson and the ball thundered into the top corner of the net. The captain slid in front of the away fans in celebration; this surely couldn’t be lost now.
Watford pressed though, another goal was disallowed for offside and Hamer was forced into another tipped save as a cross from Chobolah was deflected off Evina. But a strong defensive performance and fantastic ‘get the ball and keep it in the corner at all costs’ play from substitutes Cook and Hulse, and some help from the away fans who decided to keep the ball amongst themselves when it came their way in stoppage time, sealed Charlton’s first win in five in truly dramatic style.
A game in which three goals were considered would normally contain plenty of defensive frailties, but this one didn’t. It really was a fantastic team performance with not a single player disappointing for the Addicks. Special mentions must go to Evina, who looked a class and a bit above anything that has been at left back in the absence of Wiggins, the partnership Solly and Wilson (who suffered a broken nose late on) are developing down the wing and Bradley Pritchard, who is really starting to prove his doubters wrong in every department but for his finishing. But man of the match by a long way was Kermorgant. Definitely the best performance he’s had this season and arguably the best ever, his heading, first touch and build up play were fantastic; the two goals just the icing on the cake for the Frenchman. Hopefully this result, and the performance especially, can be the start of another winning run.